Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

WHAT a bike ride!!

Rainbow Springs State Park Site #46
Dunellon, Florida

After visiting the Three Sisters in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, I wanted to go to its headquarters which is located in a small building in a suburban waterfront neighborhood.

They have wonderful exhibits and interactive short videos on the manatees and how to help them in their fight for survival, a great selection of books and information on anything nature related you might want to do in the area as well as on local restaurants and accomodations.  Some of the information I picked up included directions to all the local kayak put ins, a flyer about the Crystal River Archeological State Park and their tours which were highly recommended, local hiking trails, a list of area campgrounds and brochures on Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge,  Crystal River NWR and a very thorough brochure on the West Florida Birding Trail.  All the information I wish I'd had when we first got here.  With so many small towns so close together, I hadn't yet figured out where is the best place to go for information.  But if you are ever in this area, definitely go here.   Sorry I was so busy taking it all in, including the manatee skeleton hanging from the ceiling that I didn't think to take any pictures of this well organized place or its knowledgable staff.  Next time <wink,wink>.   Did you know that manatees have 4 fingers and a thumb?  I didn't until I saw the skeleton.  And long fingers too.  Sadly they are hidden in the flippers or they'd be able to play a great Chopin Concerto.  Did you know a 2000 pound manatee eats 200 pounds of vegetation a day or that without our interference they can live for 70 years?   Great morning!

We then drove to Floral City which is located in the middle of the Withlacoochee State Trail.  It is a Rails to Trails and  currently the longest paved trail in Florida.  We'd been advised not to start at Dunnellon and go backwards as the best parts of the trail were in the middle, so it was very convenient to stop in the cute little village of Floral City on our way back from the NWR Headquarters.

Floral City is said to be a "slice of old Florida" and it certainly felt like the Florida I  remember from childhood visits to my great aunt.  It was named Floral City because of the abundance of wild flowers.  We were anxious to get riding on the trail so we didn't bike the town but wish we could have.  I found out that Floral City also marks the beginning of the Tsala Apopka chain of lakes, which run north into the Gulf of Mexico for the next 50 miles along the Withlacoochee River which I am intrigued to investigate.

Since it was now noon we decided to have lunch before beginning the ride.  We had lost a tie down from our Thule Bike Rack and stopped in the bike shop located conveniently right next to the trail.  They couldn't help us with that but suggested we have lunch at the restaurant across the street, The Shamrock.   So over we went.........

Don't know if you can see from this picture how decorated they were for halloween.  Heavy duty both inside and out.   We split a sandwich and fries....carbs for the peddling you know.  :-)

There were quite a few bikers in The Shamrock.  Most dressed in the serious biker clothing.  Not the cotton we were wearing.  These two were going back on the trail as we were coming in to eat.

We had parked in the public parking behind the library and also ajacent to the trial.  Floral City is definitely supporting the trail and making everything you need very handy.

And we're off........

Crossing country roads puts the stop signs for the bikers on the trail but we saw few cars and just coasted through most of them.....don't tell

Six miles or so down the trail was this sign so I mailed a recurring birthday gift to my daughter Carrie from the Istachatta Florida post office.  Happy Lasagna Carrie!!

But then, across the street, was the Blue Canoe and we hadn't had dessert.  So in support of local business we went in and had an ice cream cone in this darling little remake of the Isthachatta General Store.  I HIGHLY recommend it!!    Take note Bill :-)

On the trail again.....is that a song??

All along the banks we had been seeing the burrows of the Gopher Tortoise but no tortoise and then....

there s/he was.  Although this next picture is a close up, we weren't "that" close.

The Gopher Tortoise is the only tortoise native to North America.  They are known for their digging ability  and their burrows provide refuge for 300 to 450 other species.   They dig multiple burrows within their approximately 4 acre range and except for breeding season are solitary.  They are known as a keystone species and are listed as threatened due to predation and habitat distruction.  We had actually seen one other tortoise who beat feet into the burrow when we stopped to look but this one just hung out and walked around and demonstrated its digging abilities throwing sand back with both shovel like fore-limbs.   We hung around for quite a while and watched. 

Not long after we were back on the bikes and riding we saw someone in a maintenance type vehicle and since we had been wondering who maintained the trail so well, mowing the grass and putting up all the blue bird houses along it, I decided to stop and ask.  Well weren't we lucky, this was the very man who had constructed 200 blue bird boxes along this trail so far and is planning 100 more of these amazingly well constructed boxes.  David took a lot of pictures of the boxes' construction since there is a 12 box blue bird trail at the farm and these looked like they would require much less maintenance.  Again I got so involved listening to him talk and tell his stories that I forgot to get his picture.  What an intersesting 84 year old man who volunteers to do this.

How tall are these boxes?  David measures them by having Sherry stand next to one.  They were all along the trail.

Across another road - no traffic - on we go

A short time later, we saw a sign that said "River Access" and over we went.

What a sweet spot along a tannin colored tributary of the Withlacoochee River

 Looking upstream into the darkness

What a mysterious feeling place.

Who made these trails in the sands on the bank?

These shells sans their inhabitans were scattered all around

This one became my second souvenir of this new lifestyle.  Since there were so many, I rationalized taking it along.

Big trees

David and his favorite tree

Knees, knees and more knees.

I've never seen so many........

or so tall............

Time to get back on the trail.................we were stopping as much as we were riding  :-)  No wonder it always takes us so long to hike, to paddle, to bike!

Another biker, going the other direction

And then another glimpse of water from the trail.   It turned out to be THE Withlacoochee River itself.

What a beauty!  I immediately put it on my 'I want to paddle this' list.

Sadly, it was time to turn back.

We were approaching 21 miles on our ride when we peddled back into Floral City and over to pick up some fruits and veggies for dinner from this market around the corner from the trail

And here's Martha herself from whom we bought jucy tangerines, a yummy mellon, black plums, cherry jam and some okra for frying.  Those of you not from the south don't know what you are missing.

What a GREAT day!  I'm not sure we will ever be able to leave Florida!!


  1. the big snails are apple snails... the main food of the endangered everglade kite... looks like you found another nice place.

  2. Heyduke,
    Thanks so much for the comment and information about my snail. Maybe I'll call it Heyduke as it rides along with us. ;-)


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